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No. 9 Notre Dame struggles shooting, loses 65-60 to Syracuse
By TOM COYNE Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Jerian Grant thought poor shooting by Notre Dame, not Syracuse's zone defense, is what did Notre Dame in.

"Honestly, I think we just missed shots. Usually their zone is effective because their long and athletic, but today we just missed shots," he said. "We had some great looks at the rim. We just didn't knock them down."

The Irish made just 35 percent of their shots, including a season-low 14 percent (3-of-22) of 3-pointers in losing 65-60 to Syracuse on Tuesday night. Grant concedes he wasn't aggressive enough against the 2-3 zone, failing to get officially get off a shot in the first half.

"Against a zone, if you have a look you have to take it," he said. "In our offense, we usually pass up good shots for great shots. But I think against a zone you have to take them when you are open."

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said he wish Grant had driven the lane more in the first half to try to draw fouls.

"I think he was a little overly unselfish," he said. "He kicked to shooters, which were pretty good shots. So you can't fault him altogether."

Trevor Cooney played a big part in the beating Notre Dame again.

A year ago, Cooney tied a Syracuse record with nine 3-pointers and scored a career-high 33 points in beating the Irish. He wasn't as prolific Tuesday, but scored nine of his 11 points in the second half, including a pair of baskets 80 seconds apart late in the game that stalled the ninth-ranked Irish as the Orange won 65-60 Tuesday night.

"Cooney's two shots, those broke our back," coach Mike Brey said.

Cooney had been struggling recently, making just 12 of 52 shots in Syracuse's last five games, including being hampered by a back injury against Pittsburgh on Saturday in going 0-of-5 from the floor.

"I've been playing well but just not shooting well. It happens," said Cooney, who said his back felt fine Tuesday.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim scoffed when asked about some people speculating he should have sat Cooney during his slump.

"I'm going to keep Trevor Cooney in the game unless he tells me he can't play or the doctor tells me he can't play. Because he makes big plays. He's been making big plays since he's been here," he said.

The Orange (18-10, 9-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) beat the Irish for the sixth time in the last seven games. Notre Dame (24-5, 12-4) dropped to third place in the league standings.

Boeheim thought the Orange had blown their best chance of beating the Irish when Rakeem Christmas picked up his third foul seven minutes into the game.

Even with Christmas in foul trouble and not playing as well as usual, finishing with 14 points and 12 rebounds in 28 minutes, B.J. Johnson scored 19 points, matching his career high, and the Orange played well enough defensively, holding the Fighting Irish to 35 percent shooting.

"I just think our defense overall was pretty good. We didn't let them get comfortable and they missed 3s. If they shoot 3-for-22, we should beat them," Boeheim said.

The Irish trailed by 10 in the first half and by seven with less than 2 minutes left, but managed to cut the lead to 59-57 when Jerian Grant sank a pair of free throws with 39 seconds remaining. The Orange put the game away with a fastbreak dunk by Johnson and a free throw when he was fouled.

Johnson, who didn't score in the first eight league games, said he's playing with confidence because he knows his teammates believe in him.

"I got some opportunities that allowed me to do what I can do," he said.

Bonzie Colson led the Irish with 16 points and Grant and Pat Connaughton added 13 points each, although Grant finished 2-of-8 from the field.

TIP-INS

Syracuse: The last time the Orange entered a game ranked lower than the Irish was in 2008, when the 21st-ranked Irish beat unranked Syracuse 94-87 in South Bend. ... Christmas became the 59th Syracuse player to score 1,000 points. He has 1,010 career points.

Notre Dame: Connaughton started for the 114th time, moving into fifth place in the all-time list. Chris Thomas holds the record at 128 starts. ... The Irish fall to 16-2 at home this season. The other loss was 62-56 to No. 2 Virginia.

DOUBLE BYE

Despite the loss, the Irish clinched a double bye in the ACC tournament because North Carolina lost. "Obviously we did enough work to not play until Thursday," Brey said.

UP NEXT

Syracuse: at No. 4 Duke on Saturday.

Notre Dame: at No. 17 Louisville on March 4.